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Sikhs, sect members to meet separately

Punjab remains tense following three days of clashes even as the two groups are to meet separately to decide on their future course of action.

india Updated: May 19, 2007 00:24 IST

Punjab remained tense on Thursday following three days of clashes between the Sikh community and members of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect even as the two groups are to meet separately to decide on their future course of action.

The Akal Takht - the highest temporal seat of Sikh community - has called for a meeting of the community at Takht Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo near Bathinda, 250 km from Chandigarh, to decide on the reaction of the Sikh community to the Dera godman - Gurmit Ram Rahim - attiring himself like the revered 10th Sikh guru, Gobind Singh.

The meeting will decide what action the Sikh community wants against the sect chief.

The Dera is based in adjoining Haryana's Sirsa town, 300 km from Chandigarh, where the dera management and followers have called a parallel meeting.

Leaders and members of the Sikh community started converging at Talwandi Sabo since early Thursday.

The meeting is expected to be a stormy one with hardline Sikh organisations like Damdami Taksal demanding that the Sikh community teach a lesson to the godman.

"We want the arrest of this man. We are capable of teaching him a lesson," Taksal chief HS Bhindranwale said.

Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) - the mini-parliament of the Sikh religion - president Avtar Singh Makkar said that the Sikh clergy would decide the action against the sect head for "showing disrespect to the Sikh religion".

"We don't want to negotiate with him. We will not talk to him. He will have to face action. We will not spare him," Makkar said as he headed for the crucial Sikh community meeting.

Punjab has witnessed violence in several towns and cities over the last three days over the matter, leaving over 50 people as well as policemen injured.

Followers of the Dera laid siege to Bathinda town on Monday and Tuesday and clashed with the police. They damaged public property extensively before retreating.

As a face saving measure aimed at pacifying the Sikh community, the Bathinda police on Wednesday night registered cases of violence against over 3,000 Dera followers.

Sikhs have taken to the streets in various towns and cities across Punjab and other parts of the country, burning effigies of the sect godman.

Sikh activists resorted to violence in Amritsar and Patiala on Wednesday and forced shopkeepers to down shutters.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, whose government has been embarrassed by the turn of events in the last three days, said that the state government would not allow anyone to take law and order in their hands.